Nutrition and cancer

Winter has finally arrived with a vengeance. Ice, wind and snow in the South Island - torrential rain and floods up North. Hard to believe that residents on the North Shore lost power for up to 6 days! Despite all of these dramatic scenes outside my surest indicator of seasonal change remains the simple fact that it takes 5 minutes longer for each person to undress for their examination as they peel off layer after layer of clothing!

I was able to escape to Tonga for a week of R and R with my family earlier this month. A flight to the capital Nukialofu followed by a light plane journey to Niafu in the Vavau group of islands - only half a day of travel and suddenly you feel transported back in time 1000 years. The people in this outer group of islands live a simple subsistence life style. Fresh fish from the sea shellfish collected off the reef at your doorstep - vegetables grown fresh in the small cultivated patch alongside your house - an abundance of coconut trees and "free-range" pigs running through the streets. Well you certainly know exactly where your food originated from, how it was grown and processed and how fresh it is!

What a contrast with our "modern" supermarkets - shelves stacked with products packed with preservatives, irradiated to prolong shelf life or pre-frozen months ago.

I am sure that as a society we need to focus more attention on our food supply. We are what we eat - it sounds so simple and yet it seems so hard to pay adequate attention to our meals and diet in the rush of everyday life.

I am frequently asked to advise what changes are necessary in a patients diet to help to prevent breast cancer or at the time of a cancer diagnosis to improve treatment and survival. There are so many different diets and opinions that it can all become quite overwhelming. Keep it simple.

The first practical observation is that most of us simply eat too much. Reducing the size of a helping and combining this with regular vigorous exercise would be an excellent starting point. Keep a log-book for 2 weeks listing all meals, drinks and exercise. You will be amazed at how different things look on paper compared to a quick guess at what you consume!

Now make some simple modifications

Fresh fruit and vegetables contain many beneficial vitamins, minerals, fibre and phyto-chemicals. It seems that many of these are better absorbed and metabolised when part of normal food rather than when taken as artificial supplements.

  • High fibre is good.
  • Reduce fatty food
  • Reduce red meat
  • Reduce sugar

Make sure that you choose lots of the following foods that potentially can fight cancer

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Green tea which contains flavonoids
  • Turmeric
  • Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, brussel-sprouts, and cabbage
  • Berries
  • Whole grains, wheat, rice, oats and barley
  • Linseeds
  • Tomatoes are rich in lycopene - an anti-oxidant
  • Nuts and seeds rich in essential fatty acids and Selenium

Read more in the book Foods that fight cancer by Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras. This is a fascinating a well-written book that I can strongly recommend!

Reduce alcohol.

Make time to exercise. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week although daily is even better.

Make time for fun and relaxation. We really enjoyed our week of sailing and snorkelling in Vavau and have all come back recharged at least for the next few weeks!

I have now taken delivery of a new ultrasound machine that you will notice at your next visit. It is remarkable how ultrasound has transformed breast assessment - improving speed and accuracy of diagnosis at the bedside. Technology continues to evolve and the newer units give excellent resolution and allow for easy electronic storage of images. They are compact and portable which means that I can even take it through to theatre to assist with localisation procedures when required.

Keep active and well through the winter

Kind regards

Trevor Smith

 
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